UC Davis Picnic Day: Prime Time for Blue Orchard Bees, Tsetse Flies and Mosquitoes

Ah, Saturday, April 17. It's the 107th Annual UC Davis Picnic Day! What's a picnic without bugs?

This year's event, all virtual, is themed "Discovering Silver Linings," and you can do just that by watching the pre-recorded videos and by participating in the Zoom sessions. Check out the Picnic Day schedule of events which include entomological exhibits and talks from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Bohart Museum of Entomology and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association. 

New additions to the line-up (featured on the Bohart Museum of Entomology website), involve what you could call "The good, the bad and the bugly." Blue orchard bees, tsetse flies and mosquitoes are spotlighted in UC Davis research-based  videos created by KQED's Deep Look series and presented by PBS Digital Studios. Each runs about four minutes. 

Here are the KQED productions:




Clara Stuligross, Doctoral Student

Clara Stuligross, now a fifth-year doctoral student, is doing incredible research on blue orchard bees. We featured her in a Bug Squad blog on Nov. 9, 2020 when she authored a first-of-its-kind research project that showed that the double punch of pesticide exposure and food scarcity drastically affects the reproduction of the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria, a wild bee known for pollinating early spring bloom, including almonds. She teamed with her major professor, pollination ecologist Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, to publish Pesticide and Resource Stressors Additively Impair Wild Bee Reproduction, in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 

They exposed the bees to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid, widely used in agriculture, and found that the combined threats—imidacloprid exposure and the loss of flowering plants—reduced the bee's reproduction by 57 percent, resulting in fewer female offspring.

Other scientists have conducted similar research on honey bees, but this is the first comparable research on wild bees in field or semi-field conditions. The blue orchard bee, nicknamed BOB, is a dark metallic mason bee, smaller than a honey bee. It is prized for pollinating almond, apple, plum, pear, and peach trees. California almond growers often set up bee boxes or "bee condos" for blue orchard bees to aid in honey bee pollination. In the wild, the bees nest in reeds or natural holes. 

Update? "We are currently working on a follow-up study to investigate potential carryover effects of past insecticide exposure on the same bee population, as well as how repeated pesticide exposure over multiple years impacts bee population growth," Stuligross said today.

Geoffrey Attardo, Medical Entomologist-Geneticist 

Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is renowned for his expertise on tsetse flies. The blood-sucking insect, which transmits the parasite that causes human and animal trypanosomiasis, has wreaked havoc in African countries.

What many people do not know: "Female tsetse flies carry their young in an adapted uterus for the entirety of their immature development and provide their complete nutritional requirements via the synthesis and secretion of a milk like substance," Attardo says. 

Attardo led landmark research published Sept. 2, 2019 in the journal Genome Biology that provides new insight into the genomics of the tsetse fly. The researchers compared and analyzed the genomes of six species of tsetse flies. Their research could lead to better insights into disease prevention and control.

The Deep Look episode on mosquitoes, "This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs-- in Your House,"  deals with the ability of Aedes aegypti eggs to survive out of water.  Wrote the producers: "The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can transmit dengue fever and Zika, makes a meal of us around our homes. And her eggs are hardy. They can dry out, but remain alive for months, waiting for a little water so they can hatch into squiggly larvae."